Woori picks preferred bidders for regional banks

SEOUL, Dec. 31 (Yonhap) -- Two provincial banking firms won the bid Tuesday to each buy a regional bank unit of Woori Finance Holdings Co., giving a hand to the government's long-pending sale of South Korea's largest banking group, bank and regulatory sources said.

The state-run Korea Deposit Insurance Corp. (KDIC), the controlling shareholder of Woori Finance, picked Busan-based BS Financial Group Inc. as the preferred bidder for Kyongnam Bank, and JB Financial Group Co., based in the southern city of Gwangju, for Kwangju Bank.

The Financial Services Commission (FSC), the financial regulator in charge of the Woori sale, and the KDIC did not disclose details on the financial terms, but government officials familiar with the matter said BS Financial offered 1.2 trillion won (US$1.13 billion) and JB Financial 500 billion won for each bank.

Kyongnam Bank and Kwangju Bank are one of the three batches the government has grouped together to divest Woori, worth 428.6 trillion won as of September, in its fourth attempt to place the banking giant in private hands.

The FSC said in late June it will sell Woori's 14 affiliates in parcels -- the two regional banks, brokerage unit Woori Investment